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As early as the 13th century, the Marais began to serve as the heart of Paris’ Jewish community. Today, the Marais is one of Paris’ most trendy and desirable neighborhoods. It is the hub of the gay community in Paris. The Marais is also home to many restaurants, cafés, and boutiques, many of which stay open on Sundays, an unusual practice in France. 

Despite this modernization, the Marais still retains so much of the medieval character that was bulldozed in the 19th and 20th centuries for bigger and better structures in other parts of the City of Light—but thankfully not the medieval smell. The most prevalent smell these days emanates from the numerous seductive boulangeries (bakeries) and pâtisseries (pastry shops). And built on what was once swampland, the land where my Marais apartment sits is not even deemed a flood zone.

Just about anyone who took French in high school has thought, seriously or hypothetically, about moving to France one day. The romanticism of Hemingway’s Paris or "Midnight in Paris" does still permeate central Paris, but it is juxtaposed against a certain reality that is not always as rosy. I speak from experience, as I am an American expat who has lived and worked in Paris for the last six years and who recently purchased property here in the Marais, one of Paris’ most loved neighborhoods. 

What makes the Marais stand out from the other districts of Paris? To live in the Marais is to live in the heart—geographic, cultural, historical, architectural, and social—of this city that is considered by so many to be the ground zero of refined western culture. When you look through those rose-colored glasses at the romantic Paris of literature and movies, the cityscapes in your memories may well exist in the Marais. Take a look too at my video of the Marais, a brief, colorful tour of this beautiful slice of Parisian life.

The Marais oozes culture and history. The neighborhood has an excess of historical sites and museums, including:

  • Place des Vosges, including the home of Victor Hugo
  • The rue des Rosiers and the historic Jewish quarter
  • The Pompidou Center
  • Hôtel de Sully
  • Hôtel de Sens
  • The Cognacq-Jay Museum
  • The Picasso Museum (to reopen after extensive renovations in Spring 2014)
  • The National Archives
  • The Carnavalet Museum
  • The European Photography Museum
  • The Hôtel de Ville (including temporary exhibits)
  • The Memorial of the Shoah
  • The Museum of Jewish Art and History
  • The Museum of the Hunt and Nature
  • The Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue
  • The Nicolas Flamel and François Miron historic houses

If you expand the list to include other landmarks within a 20-minute walk, you can add Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, La Conciergerie, the Pantheon, the Louvre, and countless more. 

For access to the heart of Paris, there is no better location...

Abby Gordon

Editor’s Note: Abby Gordon’s complete and fully illustrated guide to expat life in the historic heart of Paris, including a detailed budget for the cost of living in the Marais, is being featured in this month’s issue of the Overseas Retirement Letter, in production now and due in subscribers’ e-mailboxes next week.

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Here are three top choices for exporting the American Dream with you when you retire overseas, three places where sizable communities of foreign, mostly American, retirees have established themselves and are rapidly expanding. Living in one of these three places, you could enjoy affordable and top-quality health care, an affordable cost of living, and the adventure of starting over somewhere new, but you wouldn't have to learn to speak Spanish if you didn't want to and the culture shock would be very controlled. 


  • #1: Boquete, Panama

Some 3,000 foreigners live in this colorful mountain town, and migration continues. The number of foreign residents in Boquete is expected to increase to 10,000 by 2016.

What's the attraction? Beautiful setting, good climate, straightforwardpensionado rules (for all Panama), yes, but, mostly, the draw in Boquete is the established gringo community. This town has been referred to as Panama's "Gringolandia."

In one private, gated, residential community in this region, amenities include a golf course, stables, and a small central town created specifically for foreign residents. Construction, for both the shared amenities and the individual homes, is to U.S. standards and with U.S.-style finished, fixtures, and fittings. 

In Boquete town proper, shops and services catering to the ever-growing foreign retiree population continue to open. In the U.S.-style restaurants serving American-style menus (featuring fried eggs for breakfast and cheeseburgers for lunch), you'll hear all-English conversation at the tables around you and all-American music on the speakers.

You could start your day with gourmet coffee served by a smiling, friendly clerk accustomed to serving English-speaking customers, and you could play bridge on Thursday nights and go golfing every Sunday morning, all, again, in the company of new, like-minded, and English-speaking friends.

  • #2: San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

"Walk down the street on Ambergris Caye," a friend, Peter, who lives there says, "and you hear the music of the Boomers all around--the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin...

"These folks, the Baby Boomers, who have been moving onto the island in growing numbers for years," Peter continues, "had a great time in the 1960s, listening to their music, growing their hair long, and getting stoned all the time. Then they became the most boring people on the planet. They made a lot of money by ignoring everything but hard work.

"Now they're looking to reclaim their lives. They're finding their way, in retirement, in bigger and bigger numbers, to places like Ambergris Caye, Belize, where they're listening to their music again, growing their hair long again, and spending their days stoned again."

Peter is joking about that last bit, but the point is that Ambergris Caye has what a lot of North American retirees are looking for right now, making it another of the most turn-key and user-friendly places in the world to retire overseas.

For many, the retirement dream is all about the Caribbean. If your retirement fantasies are similarly aquamarine and sandy, take a look at what Ambergris has to offer. The diving and snorkeling, the color and clarity of the water, and the abundance and variety of the sea life here are hard to beat. This is quintessential Caribbean that is also increasingly supported by the comforts of home many retirees appreciate, from a health club to bagel shops, ice cream parlors, and regular wine tastings.

  • #3: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Mexico is a big place with a bad reputation. The reputation isn't altogether undeserved, as drug cartels do control parts of this country but not all of it, and some of the most appealing regions for both living and investing sit outside the war zones. Mexico offers two long coasts, mountain towns, and colonial cities, plus Mayan ruins, jungle, rain forest, rivers, and lakes. It's also the most accessible "overseas" haven from the United States. You could drive back and forth if you wanted.

For all these reasons, Mexico is home to the biggest established populations of American retirees in the world, making it a great choice if you seek adventure with the comforts of home. Each of the several spots that expat retirees have targeted in this country offers a different lifestyle. Puerto Vallarta is the place to go for what could be described as luxury coastal living.

Puerto Vallarta is more expensive than other places where you might consider living or retiring overseas, but in Puerto Vallarta that's not the point. This isn't developing-world living. This stretch of Mexico's Pacific coastline has already been developed to a high level. Life here can be not only comfortable but easy and fully appointed. In Puerto Vallarta, you aren't buying for someday, as you can be in many coastal destinations in Central America. In Puerto Vallarta, you can buy a world-class lifestyle in a region with world-class beaches and ocean views that is supported, right now, by world-class golf courses, marinas, restaurants, and shopping. This is a lifestyle that is available only on a limited basis worldwide, a lifestyle that is truly (not metaphorically) comparable to the best you could enjoy in southern California if you could afford it. In Puerto Vallarta you can afford it even on an average retirement budget.

You could buy a small apartment outside Puerto Vallarta town for less than US$100,000, or you could buy big and fancy for US$1 million-plus. Whatever you buy, you could rent it out when you're not using it. The Puerto Vallarta region, including the emerging Riviera Nayarit that runs north from it along the coast, is an active tourist rental market with a track record.

Kathleen Peddicord

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“A property transaction can be like a Mexican stand-off. I’ve actually seen guns on the table during closings. That’s extreme, but you don’t want to make the final exchange until you are absolutely sure everything has been done as you expected and wanted. 

“Finally, we do now, finally, have escrow in this market, handled through fiduciaries. You can earn 6% interest on your money in escrow. 

“The coastal property market, where I’m focused, like all property markets in Ecuador, is all over the place, from cute and quaint to fantastic; from modest to marvelous. You could choose a small detached house near the beach or a mansion in Playas. There are condos, built homes for resale, and lots. 

“If you want something like what you’re used to in U.S. coastal markets, Samborondon is for you. This is the Beverly Hills of Ecuador’s coast, with all the U.S.-like amenities you might want. Price range here is US$200,000 for a home to US$2 million for something akin to a mansion. 

“Plaza Lagos is for golfers. Golf course homes here about 30 minutes from Guayaquil start at US$259,000. You’ll have the courses to yourself during the week; they’re really only ever used on weekends. 

“Playas is this coast’s hidden gem. Used to be the poor man’s beach. It’s nearest to Guayaquil, the sunniest beach for sure, wide and sandy, with no rocks. It’s also extensive, 14 or 15 kilometers in length, meaning plenty of room to get away from the crowds. By comparison, the ‘resort beach’ of Salinas is much narrower and only a kilometer long. It gets crowded, busy, and, for me, not enjoyable. 

“I think of Salinas as Little Miami without the crime. This horseshoe bay is the most developed beach in the country with the best swimming and foot-high waves. The downside (for me) is that the beach is completely surrounded by towers. These are vacation homes, not residences, making this a good (I’d say the best) place to invest for rental. You could buy a condo next to the beach and the marina for US$70,000. Great rental play. 

“Lobster Bay is tranquil and scenic, another horseshoe bay, and my favorite place to go for a lobster lunch. The mom-and-pop restaurants serve fresh-caught lobster feasts for US$8 to US$10, including beer. This is also a great spot for fishing, and the bay is always filled with fishing boats. 

“Wherever you decide to buy, you should be prepared for the fact that many houses here are sold furnished. If you don’t want the furniture, here’s a suggestion: Find out who you could donate it to. Go to the church or the community center and find out which family or families need what you have. You will be a hero and an instantly valued and respected member of your new community.” 

Kaitlin Yent 

Editor’s Note: Mike Sager’s talk at last week’s Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference on this country’s best current coastal property buys, both for investment and for personal use, was recorded...along with every other presentation of this event, 23 in total.

This bundle of resources will be available soon as our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference KitToday, though, you can purchase the complete kit pre-release and save more than 50%.

Go here to do that now.

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“I was downsized, and I had a baby on the way, so I went into the army. After two years I was offered a better suit job in the army intelligence, and actually got to wear a suit. Then I was a military instructor, until a training accident. At that point, I went into marketing and business management. I did really well, made a ton of money, and hated it.

“I moved my family to California, became a hospital administrator, and got sick quick of calls about gang fights in my hospital.

“Then my wife came to me one day with an idea. ‘You haven’t been happy with your job, we haven’t been happy in California, and the girls aren’t happy in school,’ she began.

“She went on and on (as women can do...and I’m allowed to say that after two wives and three daughters), citing all the reasons, in great detail, why our life wasn’t what we wanted it to be.

“Finally, she got to the point. She wanted to sell everything and move to Ecuador. 

“So we did. Within six months of my wife suggesting the idea. Crazy, right? But that’s the truth. That’s the story. We moved our entire family to a new country based on my wife’s whim. Within a year of that day when she laid out her plan, our lives had made a 180.

“And I’m here today to tell you that it was the best thing we ever could have done. We got jobs here in Ecuador within 24 hours of landing—my wife as an English teacher and me teaching English, as well, but to military personnel.

“Growing in our back yard today are coconut trees, banana trees, mango trees, and almond trees. When we want breakfast, we go forage in the yard.

“We’re renting our house in Guayaquil for US$720 a month. It’s a nice house with that great yard. When my daughters’ school wanted to throw a party for 120 people, they asked if they could use our house. That’s how big it is, for that price.

“I have no car. A bus ride is 25 cents. I wouldn’t dream of driving here. That’s most residents’ biggest complaint about the city.

“Something you should know about taking the bus, though. A bus won’t stop for a guy. If you’re a guy, you have to prove your macho-ness every time you take a bus ride. You have to kind of jump on and hang off. They do slow down...slightly. But, I’m not kidding, you have to jump and grab on as they pass.

“Don’t worry, ladies. The drivers will stop for you. They wouldn’t dream of insulting you by making you hop or run. I have to say I’m jealous of this. I wish I didn’t have to prove how much of a man I am every time I want to take the bus!

“The locals like to rent to North Americans because we pay our rent. They want you as a tenant, so they’re willing to work with you, for instance on repairs.

“What else can I tell you about living here? Ah, the Año Viejo Doll...

“On every street corner in every city, for the month or so before New Year’s Eve, you’ll see a hollow doll. You’re meant to drop a dollar or whatever into the doll every time you pass by. On Dec. 30, each city empties the dolls and uses the money collected for the local New Year’s Eve party. Then they fill the dolls with every kind of combustible they can find and, at Midnight, they blow them all up all at once. Imagine it. On every single street corner in every city, these dolls are blowing up. You can’t hear or see anything until well past 1 a.m.

“On Jan. 1st, Guayaquil airport is closed. No flights in or out, because the city looks like a battle field from the sky...”

Much, much more to come on living, retiring, and investing in Ecuador, live from the scene...

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. As always, we recorded every presentation of last week’s three-day Live and Invest in Ecuador event (including Richard Evans' presentation to the group on why he and his family chose to relocate from California to Guayaquil and how they’ve reinvented their lives into a grand adventure as a result).

All of these recordings are now being edited. When that work is complete, our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit will be available for purchase. Meantime, you can buy a copy pre-release and save more than 50%. Go here now for details.



These friends I've made in Belize have come from all over the world, and all have fascinating stories. Some are adventurers, others educators or entrepreneurs, some salt-of-the-earth folks looking to make new lives. 

Most people you meet in this country have two common characteristics. They are hospitable, and they are fiercely independent. The average Belizean--including those who've adopted this country as their homeland--would choose to live in a humble home and off the land and sea rather than be beholding to someone. This country operates according to an old school mentality that many of the world's more developed nations have forgotten. 

Amigo's is one of my favorite Belizean watering-holes. I walked in one day recently to find my friend Pete sitting in his usual spot at the end of the bar having a cold Belikin beer. I sat down with Pete and ordered a Belikin for myself and another for him. We started chatting. Pete mentioned that he's building a guesthouse near his home about a mile down the road. He invited me to go see it. We jumped in my truck and went to check out Pete's project. We walked around the jobsite, then went over to his house to say hello to his wife Glenda and to get a couple of mangos off the enormous mango tree in his backyard. 

On the way back to Amigo's, I was curious. "Pete," I said, '"I don't mean to pry, but, if you don't mind me asking, did you get a good deal at the bank, I mean for the money to build your new guesthouse?" 

Pete grinned as he replied, "No, mon, I didn't get a loan." 

I was really curious at this point, so I asked, "Pete, how about your home and truck?" 

"No, mon, no, mon." 

Now, Pete's home is not a McMansion, and his truck did not just roll off the showroom floor, but they are his, not the bank's. "You don't owe anybody, do you, Pete?" I said. 

Pete answered, in his Creole way, "No, Phil, I cyant lif like dat." 

And I realized why my Belizean friends don't have the same stressful lives as my American friends. Pete is a descendant of loggers and slaves, but today he is a truly free man. I explained to him that, back in the States, a lot of Americans right now feel like slaves to the banks and their jobs. 

"When you come to Amigo's as a free man, like me, Phil, I'll buy you a Belikin." That'll be the best beer ever. 

Sue, the proprietress of Amigo's, came to Belize in the early 1980s. She was dating a guy at the time who had decided to check out the opportunities in Costa Rica. He and his dad were at the Miami airport waiting for the flight. 

After several drinks, they realized they'd missed their plane. So they went to the ticket counter and told the agent to book them on the next flight headed south. A couple of hours later they were in Belize. Shortly after that, Sue was starting her first business in her new country (a sand, gravel, and concrete company). She has been an independent businesswoman ever since. After the concrete business, she ventured into agriculture, then into the restaurant/hotel supply business, then, in 2004, with Pete's help, she built Amigo's. 

Another friend in this country, Macarena Rose, moved to Belize in 2004 with her 15-year-old daughter, five dogs, and five cats. As an ordained minister, Macarena is a spiritual person and was fascinated by Belize's Mayan history. While living in Florida, she worked with the Mayan Studies program and became a Mayan Priestess so she could understand and be able to perform Shamanistic healing. While healing is a great passion of hers, Macarena is also a professional businesswoman who runs a successful real estate company called Rainforest Realty, in San Ignacio. 

With the energy that only a single mother of two who also raised six adopted children can have, Macarena stays involved in the community, performs weddings, and hosts a weekly biography show on Belize TV. Macarena was instrumental in attracting the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to Belize and is the immediate past president of the association. She describes coming to Belize from Florida as "a lateral move." As a fellow Floridian, I feel the same way. With its English language, common law tradition, private property rights, and abundant natural attractions, it's easy to see why people from the United States, Canada, and the UK feel so at home here. 

As a British Commonwealth country, Belize has always attracted expats from the UK. One such adventurous soul is Mick Fleming, the owner of Chaa Creek, which is a spectacular rainforest resort on the banks of the Macal River in the Cayo District. Mick and his wife Lucy were two eco-travelers who met picking apples in the UK On Feb. 11, 1977, well before eco-tourism was trendy. The couple arrived in Belize with the clothes on their backs and US$600. In Belize City, they hitched a ride in an old beat-up Land Rover out to the Cayo District, home of the Maya Mountains, rainforests, and fertile farmland. Mick and Lucy fell in love with the area and rented a place in San Ignacio. The money they'd brought with them ran out, so they went to work at a farm picking beans for US$40 a week. 

Then they met an Englishman who had retired from the R.A.F. and owned 137 acres on the outskirts of Cayo. They made a deal with the fellow Brit to rent the land with an option to buy it. They backpacked miles into the jungle and finally found the property, which had a little wooden cabin but otherwise was completely overgrown. Undeterred, they unloaded all of their worldly belongings, including a foam mattress, a cooker, a saddle, a rake, and a shovel. They cleared an area for a small farm and began growing vegetables that they transported to town by canoe via the Macal River. Mick remembers feeling like a rich man one day when he sold a load of squash pumpkins for US$90. 

In 1981, they purchased the land they'd been leasing, and, suddenly, visitors began arriving. Mick and Lucy's produce business made about US$30 per week, and, as more and more travelers passed through this part of the country, they realized they could earn more money by providing backpacker accommodation. They built a cabana with a thatched roof, tasiste walls (palm trunks), and a dirt floor. 

That was the beginning of Chaa Creek Lodge, which, today, includes a dozen luxury cabanas, a restaurant/bar, a spa, a cascading pool, an equestrian center, a campground, and organized activities. The day I went to talk to Mick about this article, he had just come from his farm. He greeted me with a big smile and a handshake that made me realize he is still that same adventurous soul who arrived in Belize in 1977 with US$600 in his pocket. 

Phil Hahn

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"This was a 10! Great event. Awesome job by the Live and Invest Overseas team!"

Edward T., United States


"I particularly appreciated your information today about the joys (?) of international rental property. What I admire is your honest, tell-it-like-it-is approach. A lot of people have been hurt by nothing but glowing reports about offshore living from various sources. Your honest, direct approach is a real service."

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.


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